In a previous post, I covered the VMware Experts Program. When I was attending the Program, one of the things Don Sullivan mentioned was the VMware Hands On Labs (HOL). I hadn’t had a chance to explore those before, so I was interested to see what they were like.
Quite honestly, these are among the best hands on lab environments I have played around with. If I wanted to test a feature of Oracle software in my previous life, most of the time I built myself a virtual machine environment using Oracle’s VirtualBox, installed all the relevant software and started from there. Of course, much of that could be snapshotted to save repeating the exercise, but it was largely restricted to a single VM. If I wanted to test something like Oracle’s Real Application Clusters technology, I built myself a small two node cluster out of two separate VMs and went from there. It really didn’t give me the feel of a real-world environment.
Enter the VMware HOL. Obviously, to get a real-world environment to test things like vMotion migration of VMs takes much more in the way of resources than my poor old laptop could handle, even if it does have 32 GB of RAM. The VMware HOL environment solves that issue for you. It takes only a small amount of time to actually crank up an environment for each lab you want to do, and each lab comes complete with online instructions integrated with the lab, as well as a separate PDF file and HTML version of the lab if you want to use that.
The labs are largely standalone, but do reference other labs where more details can be found. For things that may take some time to execute, you generally find they have included an interactive simulation where you click your way around and type in a few things, but the actual steps are simply simulated to save time.
Overall, as I mentioned above, the VMware HOLs are pretty darn good!
Frankly, there’s not much to say here. If I was to nit pick a few minor points, they’d be these:
- It would be nice to have a recommended path through the labs documented outside the labs themselves. There are quite a few labs there, and it’s a bit hard to determine which ones should be done in which order. In the labs themselves, there are sometimes suggestions to do other labs for more information, but that’s about it.
- Sometimes the interactive simulation may not take input correctly (sometimes need to hit a key twice – which can be more than a tad confusing when you’re entering passwords and don’t realize one got missed!). However, after a while you realize you can type any active key (i.e. not Shift) and it will think you’re typing what it expects, so you can just keep typing “jjjjjjjjjjjjj…” until the field populates with the right number of characters. 🙂
- The suggested overall timings in the lab descriptions are almost always way off. They even acknowledge that in the lab overview and provide individual module timing (each lab is broken into one or more modules) that are much more realistic.
- Sometimes there are links to videos in the labs. These are live in the labs themselves and in the HTML versions, but not the PDF manual. Clicking the links in the PDF does nothing.
- There are occasional typos (like “weather” instead of “whether”) and occasional mismatches between what they tell you to do in the text and what they provide in the image showing you the steps.
Even less to say here. About the only thing I could put into this category is that once (and only once, so far) the manual said to click a link to go to a certain page, and when I did that it just spun forever. I had to end the lab and restart it to get it to work.
As an environment to learn your way around the VMware products, using their hands on labs has been a great way to do just that. Of course, as with any product training, I probably don’t remember much of what gets done where, but at least I got a much better understanding of what the products can do, and I can always find my way back to things later when I have to remember where I should be in the product. Big thumbs up to VMware for providing such an excellent resource!